How to Harden WordPress – The Essential Steps

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There are many ways to harden WordPress websites. In the article, we will introduce some essential steps every WordPress website should take.
1. Always use the latest version of WordPress
WordPress, like many software programs, is updated on a regular basis to address any new security vulnerabilities that may occur. Once it releases a new version to fix the previous vulnerabilities, the information that is needed to exploit those vulnerabilities is probably already in the public domain. This makes older versions more vulnerable to attack. That’s why you should always keep WordPress up to date.
WordPress’s latest version is always available on the official WordPress website at https://wordpress.org. Never download or install WordPress from anywhere other than https://wordpress.org.
WordPress now has automatic updates since version 3.7. By utilizing this feature, you can make keeping updated easier. You may also use the WordPress Dashboard to stay up to date on changes.
2.Use strong passwords
Strong passwords make it harder for a brute-force attack to succeed. Ensure all your users, including the WordPress administrators, set up login passwords that are at least eight characters long and contain a mix of capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. There are many automatic password generators that can be used to create secure passwords. You can check whether your password strength is adequate with the password strength meter in WordPress. .
See our previous article if you want to learn more about how to protect your passwords.
3.Use two-factor authentication (2FA)
Enabling two-step authentication can provide an additional layer of protection on top of using a strong password. Every user, whether they are an Administrator, Subscriber, Editor, Super Admin, or Author, should be required to enter their login details first, followed by a password that is generated in real-time (usually a one-time password sent to the registered phone number). It makes hackers difficult to gain access to your WordPress dashboard even when they use bots to guess the important credentials of your website.
4.Implement least privilege permissions
A WordPress website has six predefined roles: Super Admin, Administrator, Editor, Author, Contributor, and Subscriber. Each role has different rights, and certain actions may only be done by a certain role. It is recommended that you have as few administrators as possible. You may minimize the risk of hackers gaining admin credentials by restricting the number of administrators and permissions for different roles.
5.Use SSL for data security
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is a technique of securely transmitting data between a user and a server through an encrypted connection. This ensures that all the data between your user’s browser and your website is encrypted, making it impossible for hackers to read and intercept the data provided by your users. Personal information such as credit card details, usernames, and passwords can be safeguarded with SSL. An SSL-certified website’s URL will begin with HTTPS. Google recommends that every website has an SSL certificate. The browser will show a nice green lock for a website that runs on HTTPS.
6.Logging
It is recommended to install plugins like WP Security Audit Log to keep track of everything that happens on your websites. It allows you to see exactly what your users are doing and when they are doing it. By monitoring the logs, you are able to quickly detect suspicious activities such as Cross Site Scripting (XSS), Remote File Inclusion (RFI), Local File Inclusion (LFI), Directory Traversal attempts and brute force attempts. Loggings also help with debugging and fixing security vulnerabilities due to incorrect changes.
7.Set up Firewall
You can use a WAF (web firewall) on your web server to filter content before it is processed by WordPress. ModSecurity is the most widely used open-source WAF.
A website firewall can also be added to act as an intermediary between internet traffic and your hosting server. These services work as reverse proxies, accepting the initial requests and rerouting them to your server after removing all malicious requests. They achieve this by altering your DNS records, either through an A record or a full DNS swap. This causes the firewall to filter all traffic before it reaches your site. CloudFlare, Sucuri, and Incapsula are a few companies that provide this service.
Moreover, there are many plugins that can act as a firewall for your website. Some plugins work by modifying your .htaccess file and restricting some access at the Apache level before WordPress processes it. Some firewall plugins act at the WordPress level, attempting to filter out attacks as WordPress loads but before it is fully processed.
In the next article, we are going to talk about more advanced steps to harden your WordPress. Stay tuned. If you have any questions about our WordPress hosting services, feel free to contact our customer service by phone at +852 3959 1800 or via email at cs@dataplugs.com.